Injustice Anywhere in Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.´s Letter from Brimingham Jail

Injustice Anywhere in Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.´s Letter from Brimingham Jail

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Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s, “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” while most appropriately described as a response to criticism, is not written from a defensive position. While his letter more than aptly provides a functional defense of his actions at Birmingham, it serves more so as a counter-critical rebuttal that both repudiates criticisms of his deeds, and criticizes the reasoning behind said criticisms. Dr. King uses the very denunciative tools used against him, such as assertions of premature action and aggressiveness, as both defense and offense, effectively dismissing any wrong on his part, and elucidating the myopic nature of the white moderates’ reticence. What makes his criticism particularly powerful, besides its solid reasoning, and open publication, is the medium between his logic and the receptivity of his audience: his rhetoric. In his letter, King addresses the accusations of civil disobedience and extremism, and his being encouraged to submit to quietism, but the manner in which these facets are presented by the opposition, distort King’s actual position, proving to be the greatest threat to King’s efforts. King’s ability to overcome these obstacles was not through the use of logic alone, but through the use of rhetorical delivery.
Dr. King’s reply to concerns of his willingness to selectively obey and disobey laws can be summed up in his words, “there are just laws, and there are unjust laws” (3). Expounding upon this, King explains that for a law to be inherently just, it must be inherently moral, and conversely, an unjust law is not in accord with the laws of morality. He elaborates by emphatically regarding segregation laws as immoral, and therefore unjust, because, in its allowance of exalting one ‘race,’...


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... questioning the virtue of vapid judgment, and the merit and efficaciousness of abeyance. This paper has specifically examined his reaction to accusations of civil disobedience, extremism, and admonitions favoring quietism, and the impact his retaliations had on the goal of equality in America. While misrepresentation turns out to be the opposition’s most formidable tool, history, logic and rhetoric serve as King’s strongest allies, allowing him to turn the tenuous arguments of his critics into a formidable bulwark. The letter’s greatest impact on the audience is King’s disambiguation of fact and myth. The fact that his letter was widely publicized proved invaluable to the cause as well. But beyond this, King’s rhetoric allows no room for opposition, only for defense, leaving those in disharmony with his words on the side of immorality, injustice, and villainy.

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